Sep 3, 2022

You have currently viewed 1 story this month.

IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.

I've been saying it since 2010 and I just want to talk about what it means. WIFAWCBT is We're Illinois Football And We Can't Be Trusted. I believe the origin was the Minnesota game in 2010 (which was nearly identical to this game, by the way - felt like a victory the entire way until Minnesota goes on a long drive in the final two minutes to score a touchdown with a few seconds left to win the game). It might have been the From The Stands after that Minnesota game. Or maybe the postgame article. There were no two ways about it: we're Illinois football, and we can't be trusted.

I've quoted it for 12 years now. Used it as a hashtag. Considered making it a shirt (although I don't think I could even bring myself to wear it). And people send it to me on Twitter a fair bit. There's one common thread that weaves through all Illini teams the past 30 years: we can't be trusted.

Illini fans have identified with it. I can go search Twitter and I'm sure I can find people using it last night (and not by quoting it to me). Give me a second.

Here you go:

And, of course, when I use it (like I did very late last night), some people react very harshly to it:

Maybe the best way to explain my feelings after this loss is to explain WIFAWCBT. I don't want to talk about the details of this game. I don't want to re-hash the final drive. And I definitely don't want to think about the Hightower touchdown that was overturned. So let me just explain why WIFAWCBT isn't some fatalistic attitude. It's therapy.

For starters, it is not, in any way, "Bret Bielema: just like all the other coaches." Not in the slightest. We were competitive - we were the better team, actually - but we just didn't get there. We The People got excited about the possibility of a potential win, the game started and we saw what we had been hoping to see, making us even more excited, and then that game ended like all of the other games where we didn't have hope going in: a loss.

It's not some Nebraska-like "how do we keep losing every game by one score?" that their fanbase is currently fighting their way through. It's not the six Kansas football fans and their "I don't think I've seen light at the end of the tunnel for a dozen years." Vandy's "we just want to get to six wins, man" isn't even the same as our "we just want to get to six wins, man." Our fan experience is very unique.

The reason it's so unique? Hope. When we do succeed, we succeed on a grand scale (BCS/NY6 bowl scoreboard: Illinois 2, Missouri 0). We have the kind of epic seasons that remind us it's possible. And then we play the kind of games that remind us it might never happen again.

That struggle between what we can be and what we refuse to be is why I tell everyone that we can't be trusted. Our fandom is precipitous. You might think the moment is coming, but be very careful, because there are trap doors ahead. If you don't have the heart for it, it's gonna break you.

Me? I feel like I have the heart for it. I can take the blows. It's why I follow Illini football around the country like some follow Phish. I believe this program will return to where it belongs and I'm going to be there when it happens. I will see us get back to where we belong.

Where do we belong? All-time Big Ten wins:

  1. Ohio State 543
  2. Michigan 529
  3. Wisconsin 393
  4. Minnesota 364
  5. Illinois 353

Iowa joined the Big Ten four years after we did and they still have fewer wins. Purdue joined the Big Ten the same year we did and they have fewer wins. Northwestern too, although you knew that one.

We belong in the middle of the pack. Wisconsin (same age as us) has 1,256 college football wins and we have 1,242. History says we belong in the middle. We must return to the middle.

But we can't be trusted. We dominate Indiana (that's 2-10 last year Indiana) for most of the game but lose because of penalties, turnovers, a turnover-on-downs, and Indiana scoring their only points of the second half 29 minutes and 37 seconds into the second half. We want to believe in the team, we go to the tailgate and talk about how we have the pieces, and then we do the thing that makes us wonder how we could ever trust another team again.

The 30-year pattern is the thing, not the fourth down call. Let me embed another tweet here. Something I tweeted back in early August:

Bret Bielema gets all the time he needs in attempting to overcome that. It's the same thing I said when Brad Underwood was 12-21 his second season. There's no switch you can just flip after The Lost Decade. It has to be a full cultural overhaul. The coach who turns this around (please be Bret, and then please stay for 15 years, Bret) will do so by changing the culture.

But does that overhaul really have to reinforce our trust issues? Does it really have to look exactly like the last 30 years of frustrating losses? Wouldn't "played a competitive game, simply lost by 7" work much better? I felt like Indiana Jones in Indiana last night. Why did it have to be penalties?

THAT'S what WIFAWCBT means. It's therapy. It's how to cope. It is the thing our football therapist has told us to save on the lock screen of our phone so that we will see it all day long and remember who we are and what we've been through. Across the years, there is one constant truth, and we need to learn to live in a world where this truth exists until the day we realize it is no longer there:

We're Illinois Football And We Can't Be Trusted.


orangejulius on September 3, 2022 @ 11:06 AM

WIFAWCBT is knowing that whatever happens in the game, that there is disappointment hiding and waiting in the shadows.

GilThorpe on September 3, 2022 @ 11:08 AM

I can be done and it will be done .

So mote it be

Ellisrt1031 on September 3, 2022 @ 11:09 AM

20 winning seasons in my 61 years. 3 in last 20. Can easily think of a half dozen games in the last 10 where we lost on last minute drives to poor opponents. Yes.

droidillini on September 3, 2022 @ 12:05 PM

Long season. We are competing and with our defense, I think we can surprise some teams and go bowling. It's a marathon not a sprint, win against Virginia and we are back on track. Illini Football is fun and competitive again. That's the 1st step. Go Illini, and big fan of The Law Firm ;)

DGMac on September 3, 2022 @ 12:12 PM

I'm glad to see the hope alive and well in you -- which is important because your Illini fandom, which like you said is about hope, is the hardiest out there in public view. I must say, when you failed to muster a "Go Illini" at the end of the FTS, I was concerned. Over the years, I heard quite a few very quiet, very despondent "Go Illini"s. But I always heard them. So I knew the patient was alive. Last night, after a loss I too took way harder than normal for a game I never expected to win, not hearing a "Go Illini" was like hearing a heart monitor flatline. But the hope -- and the faith -- endure. Waiting to be rewarded -- someday.

ATOillini on September 3, 2022 @ 12:23 PM

We all have our own frame of reference. I understand those who take issue with this post. I can see why. But for some of us, it rings true.

I have two college buddies (we’re class of ‘79) where we have this texting thing that’s gone on for years during football and basketball season. No phone calls. Basically never see each other. Yet we have this bond. A day or so before the Wyoming game we started up again. One of the comments (not me) was “150+ years of combined cynicism in this thread”. So there you go.


Walter Young was in bounds.

Hightower scored a touchdown.

Eagle on September 3, 2022 @ 12:24 PM

If only Nate had made his comment about your attitude without an attitude of his own. Let me first say that I love your writing, Robert, and appreciate everything you do.

Nate's point was legit (and I don't know who Nate is personally). Look at what you wrote in your SOC and your thoughts that it really isn't possible for the Illini to win their first road game of the season against a decent opponent because we never have. You made a strong case for how long that history is.

Last night's loss is not like many of those other losses. We legitimately have the best passing offense since Wes Lunt, and our defense is possibly better than last year's. We friggin stuffed their run game last night.

After watching the first quarter, I full expected Bazelak to destroy us once he dialed it in. A 5,000 yard passer against SEC defenses is a great quarterback, better than several others we'll see in the Big 10 this year. It took him until the 4th quarter before he finally found his touch with his new receivers. He will destroy some defenses as the year goes on. You've got to see that. I'm honestly impressed that we were able to hold him off that long.

There were a number of things we did that contributed to the loss and could have prevented it. One thing in particular would have absolutely prevented it - a decent pass rush. That's correctable. Look at the corrections and improvement our staff already demonstrated last year. That's more recent history that matters.

You're right about one thing. This program will return to where it belongs and you're going to be there when it happens. That time is sooner than you think.

SactownIllini on September 3, 2022 @ 01:18 PM

I thought the pass rush was decent. Forced him into many bad throws and scrambles. The QB was pretty good at avoiding sacks. His accuracy was off most of the game. Missed a lot of wide open targets. I can see him having a great season. That one td bomb was a thing of beauty. All in all, looked like an early season game when IND had the ball. On the other side, too many unforced errors did us in. I think Pearl being out really hurt us in the 4th quarter. Weren't gashing them like we were in the middle part of the game, and Devito had too much pressure.

BexleyIllini on September 3, 2022 @ 05:00 PM

I understand you can’t shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win. But the evaporation of Hightower’s TD had to be a psychological blow. Totally unfair and I think we win this one if called correctly.

1701phiillini on September 4, 2022 @ 08:07 AM

Coach said postgame the number one thing for this program is before you can win you have to eradicate losing. Heard same from coach of the Detroit Lions.

tgb on September 4, 2022 @ 11:18 AM

Sometimes I think there is a slush fund for the referees paid for by the other schools to guarantee Illinois will always get the shaft when plays are reviewed. I'm shocked that everyone could watch the same instant replay and know that Hightower made the catch, and scored the touchdown, but the referee's came up with a different conclusion. Not really complaining, because I've been watching Illinois football from the stands since 1964, and it will never change. Just wondering!!

ScubaFarms on September 4, 2022 @ 11:23 AM

New subscriber and at 66, a long time fan. From my first game in '69, (Michigan 57- Illini 0) to now, I continue to hang in there after these gut punches. From the highs of White and Mackovic, I believe in Bielema. I like a pissed off coach and from the look on his face in the post game, he will make this a teachable moment. Keep up the good work, Robert.

Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.

Post Preview